Travel Diary: New Zealand Cruise (Part 3)

This is the third installment of my Australia New Zealand travel notes. Click on any of the images to jump to my photo gallery for this trip.

Day 15 Oct 22, 2022 Sydney Harbor Dock, iPhone

We are sitting on a dock bench beside the Celebrity Eclipse waiting to board. The ship is huge and many hundreds are lining up to get on board. We are in the 3:30 pm group so it’s a bit of a wait. The people boarding skew towards the older demographic. The weather is overcast with a warm wind.

Our first glimpse of the Celebrity Eclipse. My first thought, “This thing is as big as the aircraft carrier in the San Diego harbor.”

Day 16 Oct 23, 2022 Celebrity Eclipse Stateroom 6156, Tasman Sea, Mac

We are in our Celebrity Eclipse stateroom 6156. Our room is a veranda room on deck 6. There are 16 levels on the ship and a huge midship show elevator runs up and down between them. Imagine a Vegas Casino filled with chubby senior citizens, many using canes and wheelchairs, then put the casino on a ship and lose it in the ocean. Voila, you’ve imagined our cruise. We spent most of yesterday exploring the ship. There is a lot to see but you quickly run out of places. Tomorrow I am going on a “Behind the Scenes” tour where they take you through the working areas of the ship. The galleries, the engine room, the bridge, the staff dormitories, and the laundry. I hate to say it but I suspect seeing how you do laundry for over a thousand people a day is going to be more interesting than browsing overpriced midship shops. I suspect that we are not “cruising people.”

Cruising people like to sit and eat, and eat, and eat, and then float in hot tubes. The ship has several pools, inside and out, and all the bubbling hot tubs were filled with obese women and old male porkers. I swear they displaced most of the tub water. When not displacing tub water cruising people prowl the forever open buffets to maintain their hippo-Esque physiques. And when sated with floating and eating, cruising people lollygag in lounges making an effort to relax. Actual hippos do it better. Yes, we are probably not cruising people.

This was driven home by the noon art auction. We sat and watched elderly people pay thousands of dollars for “art.” I kept thinking my daughter’s stuff is more interesting and that’s not just the dad in me speaking. After the auction, we had some gelato, ate lunch, found the exercise room: it’s better than most gyms, and then retired to our stateroom.

The ocean outside our veranda is forever arresting. You wouldn’t expect a flat water-filled horizon to differ from day to day but it does. This surprised me when I worked on offshore drilling rigs decades ago and it’s still the same. Our departure from Sydney Harbor actually took me by surprise. The ship moved so smoothly from its berth that I didn’t even notice we had left the dock until I looked up and saw the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Mali and I were apart during departure. She was elsewhere on the ship and her pictures of the Sydney Opera House were better than mine. I went to the front of the ship, and from the solstice deck, watched the ship follow the little pilot boat out of the harbor. The blinking green and red buoys looked like an airport runway at night. The history is wrong, ships were leaving harbors long before planes were flying. It’s more accurate to say an airport runway looks like a harbor right-of-way.

We didn’t eat until 8:30 pm and then we retired to our room. I slept well, as usual, and Mali did not, also as usual.

The ship’s interior had its charms. I liked the library and the main show elevators. At first, I thought the library was an actual library, but silly me the “books” were just for show, and as you see, most of them were out of reach. The library was a homage to an earlier epoch when upper-class passengers would dress in suitable attire and then make a show of how cultured they were. So much of what we consider “classy” is an echo from ages that had class, because, let’s be honest, our twerking and “trumpy” era has none.

Day 17 Oct 24, 2022 Celebrity Eclipse Stateroom 6156, Tasman Sea, Mac

We are still some 300 nautical miles from the west coast of New Zealand. The cruise itinerary is changing en route. I was under the impression we would be in Milford Sound this morning but it’s apparently tomorrow morning. The weather is expected to be overcast and rainy which may work to my advantage as it will reduce the number of people on the outer decks leaving more spots for me to take pictures. Still, this is our third day at sea and I was expecting only two. Maybe cruises adjust for weather and port conditions all the time and this is nothing unusual. The other passengers seem woefully unconcerned. Still, I see why old ocean liners were so obsessed with speed. It takes forever to get anywhere on a ship! If the Titanic, (smaller than the ship I am currently on), hadn’t been trying to beat a speed record it wouldn’t have hit that iceberg.

Last night we had dinner in one of the specialty restaurants: Le Petit Chef. I thought it was going to be a standard French Restaurant but the Le Petit bit was literal. A cute series of animated cartoon characters were projected on the table. It was a surprisingly high-quality projection. You watched a little French family gather raw ingredients and build your dinner by throwing projected food on your plate. When the dinner course animation ended the waiter placed your actual food in the same spot. It was cute and the food was good.

This morning I wanted to take the “Behind the Scenes” tour and I promptly showed up at 8:30 am at the Shore Excursions desk only to learn that we had crossed another time zone last night and it was 9:30 am – not 8:30 am. When flying you zoom through time zones, reset your watch, and suffer jet lag for a few days. On a ship, you adjust without noticing it and just miss appointments. I must say I enjoy the relaxed ship vibe. No white-knuckle sailors are holding onto their spouses and expecting to sink without warning. Life aboard is super chill.

Today I will probably switch to my wide-angle Nikon lens and shoot some pictures.

Day 18 Oct 25, 2022 Celebrity Eclipse Stateroom 6156, New Zealand Coastal Waters, Mac

We spent the day cruising New Zealand fiord country. Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, and Dusky sound. Took lots of pictures.

Milford Sound in the morning from the upper deck of the cruise ship. The ship did not dock in the sound. A small boat came alongside, and a dozen passengers disembarked to go overland to the next stop in Dunedin. We considered joining them, but the absurdly high cost of one night in the Fiordlands deterred us.

Also, tonight and the previous night, I attended the live shows in the Eclipse Theatre. The shows are Ok music and stand-up acts.

Too tired to write more. Tomorrow, we go ashore in Dunedin after four nights on the ship.

Day 18,19 Oct 26,27 2022 Celebrity Eclipse Stateroom 6156, New Zealand Coastal Waters, Mac

The last two days have been shore days. On the 26th we visited Dunedin. After four nights on the ship, it was nice to get back on land. Dunedin is a small University City on the South Island of New Zealand. We didn’t sign up for any shore excursions so we hopped on a local tour at the wharf. We rode in a small Awesome Tours bus with Mac our driver. There were only three of us: Mali, myself, and another lady from Brisbane. It was almost like a private tour. Mac took us downtown, where we exchanged some US hundreds for New Zealand dollars. Then we were driven to Larnach Castle, which was never actually a castle. It was a country estate built by Larnach in the 19th century. It was nice but frankly, I wouldn’t recommend the castle. There are lots of nice estates on this planet.

After the castle, we drove up the Dunedin peninsula and had lunch at the bird sanctuary. There were three varieties of gulls flying and pooping all over. We didn’t see any albatrosses Then we drove up the hill to see New Zealand seals and Little Blue Penguins. The Little Blue Penguins were on their nests. They are delightful and were one of the highlights of this trip. We also saw chicks at various stages of development.

The little blue penguins of New Zealand are avian celebrities. Everyone loves them, and if you don’t, there is something very wrong with you.

After the penguins, we drove to the steepest street in the world. It’s amazing what turns into a tourist attraction. I particularly appreciated Mac’s discussion on how street steepness is measured. In case you’re wondering Calculus is involved.

Then it was back to the ship and to bed early.

As the ship left Dunedin, we saw albatrosses gliding around the sanctuary point. It was the first time I’d seen more than one in the air at a time.

Today we visited Christchurch New Zealand. The cruise ship docks at both Dunedin and Christchurch are a fair distance from the city. In Dunedin Mac drove us to and from the wharf. At Christchurch, we rode the Celebrity shuttles in and out of town.

Christchurch was hit by a big earthquake in 2011. It was only a 6.1 quake but it was very shallow and very close (less than 7 km) from the city so it did a lot of damage. The city had to rebuild large chunks of its downtown. The new buildings are nice and designed to withstand big earthquakes. There’s nothing like a shit-kicking to smarten people up. We spent the afternoon riding the city trolleys — some cars are over a hundred years old — and walking in the city core. We popped into the Canterbury Museum, The Botanic Gardens, the Art Museum, and various city parks.

Highlights — the tunnel into the city, the restored shopping districts, and the old restored trolleys.

Postscript:

  1. The ship’s crew all wear masks and are either south Asian, Latinos, or Black. They are also fairly short and impeccably dressed in their service uniforms. The cruise customers are almost all white with some Asians, many are elderly, and many are overweight. There are two visible classes on board.

  2. Ship Internet is slow or nonexistent. Starlink will significantly improve at-sea connections.

Day 20 Oct 28, 2022 Celebrity Eclipse Stateroom 6156, New Zealand Coastal Waters, Mac

Today we were in Wellington. Highlights — the parliament Beehive and the Wellington Cable car. Mali is not feeling well; she is wearing a mask in bed and watching soccer while fretting about maybe picking up COVID. Tomorrow we are in Napier.

Day 21 Oct 29, 2022 Celebrity Eclipse stateroom 6156, New Zealand Eastern Coastal Waters, iPhone

We were in Napier today. Mali was sick and stayed onboard. I went ashore by myself. I rented a bicycle across the street from the shuttle bus “I Stop.” I rode it about 7 km up the coast to the wetlands and then suffered a flat tire. I walked the bike back to the rental place hiking through Napier. Shakespeare street saved me a kilometer or so on the hike back.

After returning the bike I had a flat white and a vegan “Sammy” in an organic store Mali would have liked. Then I walked around town and down the beach before slurping down some smoothies in a little cafe. Napier is smaller than the other ports we’ve visited and the cruise people stood out downtown. In the other locations, they blended in. Tomorrow is Tauranga.

Day 22,23,24 Nov 2, 2022 Celebrity Eclipse Stateroom 6156, Tasman Sea, Mac

I’ve been slacking off on my diary entries. This is a catch-up.

On Oct 30 we were in Tauranga which is New Zealand’s largest port. The weather was awful it was pouring rain when we walked down the gangplank and we were soaked by the time we stepped on our “Hop On Hop Off” bus. Mali wasn’t feeling well and shouldn’t have come but she wanted to see the city. It blows to be sick on trips. We rode the bus to a shopping mall. The bus driver told us the mall was the most popular stop on their route. People like to check out the shops and see how prices differ from back home. I get it but malls are malls.

We dried out in the mall and I had another flat white. We then rode the rest of the bus loop and got back on the ship by noon. We both ended up napping in our stateroom.

On Oct 31 we were in Auckland or as T-shirt once said “Sydney for Beginners.” We walked around the city, went up the tower, and ended up in an Art Museum. A few young women were “singing” in one of the galleries. Auckland differs from the other New Zealand ports in that the dock is right downtown. You could walk off the boat into the middle of the city. Just like Sydney and San Diego.

On Nov 1 we headed back to Sydney. Last night was the roughest night at sea. I also took an internal ship tour which turned out to be one of the best tours of the ship. The bridge was as spacious and luxurious as Star Trek sets.

Auckland from the upper deck of the cruise ship.

Postscript:

  1. The ship reported a few cases of COVID. The people have been isolated and we’ve been advised to wear masks in public. How this will play out when we dock in Sydney remains to be seen. I hope we don’t get quarantined.

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